CBS celebrates Iceland eliminating Down syndrome children

In August, CBS ran a “CBSN: On Assignment” episode exploring how Iceland has eradicated Down syndrome in the country. The report highlighted that just one or two children are born with Down syndrome each year because the health authorities there began aggressively promote genetic screening since the early 2000s and there is a 100 per cent abortion rate for preborn babies identified as having the genetic abnormality.

Pro-life actress Patricia Heaton reacted to the story on Twitter:
“Iceland isn’t actually eliminating Down syndrome. They’re just killing everybody who has it. Big difference.”

Genetic screening is optional, but CBS reports that expectant mothers are nudged to taking the tests. About 85 per cent of women agree to have them according to Landspitali University Hospital in Reykjavik. Seven out of ten Icelandic babies are born at the facility.

While Iceland bans abortion after 16 weeks, there are exceptions for cases in which the child has a deformity, and Down syndrome falls in that category.

Hulda Hjartardottir, head of the prenatal diagnosis unit at Landspitali University Hospital, told CBS medical staff are neutral in counseling women after their tests. But geneticist Kari Stefansson, founder of deCODE Genetics, wonders if the results reflected “a relatively heavy-handed genetic counseling.”

Kevin Burke, a licensed social worker and co-founder of Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries, wrote in the Washington Examiner that women are pressured to abort their Down syndrome babies. “Couples are vulnerable in the aftermath of receiving a poor prenatal diagnosis. Counselors don’t even have to pressure these couples to abort when the whole process moves parents inexorably in the direction of termination.”

Iceland is an outlier, but terminating pregnancy after a Down syndrome determination has been made is the norm in the western world. In the United States, two-thirds of women who are told their preborn child has tested positive for Down syndrome obtain an abortion. In France, the number is 77 per cent and in Denmark it is approaching 98 per cent.

Jerome Lejeune, who discovered the chromosomal anomaly that causes the syndrome, was opposed to abortion.

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